First evidence of microplastics occurrence in mixed surface and treated wastewater from two major Saudi Arabian cities and assessment of their ecological risk.
Abstract In this study, water of the channels and ponds that conduct residual water in two most important cities of Saudi Arabia were assessed to ascertain the influence of the population on the occurrence and pollution characteristics of microplastics (MPs) (>20 µm in size). Riyadh has 5,188 million inhabitants and is an urban city even though also have industry while Al-Jubail has only 0.77 and is the biggest industrial city. MPs showed an average of 3.2 items/L in Riyadh and 0.2 items/L in Al-Jubail showing a statistically significant difference between both cities. Sampling with a Turton Tow Net of 20-µm mesh, fibers were dominant in all sites (60%). MPs size was mainly distributed between 80 and 250 µm (60%), and their major colors were white (40%), red (25%) and blue (20%). Infrared spectral analysis revealed that most of the selected particles were identified as MPs of polypropylene and polyethylene (48.3%). The risk assessment was carried out using both the hazard index (HI) and the pollution load index (PLI). The results showed that, in this case, the decisive index is the PLI since the main difference in the MPs characteristics between the two cities is their concentration.